Keystone State Clash
A continuation of consistent trends present throughout this gripping Democratic contest was evident once more in yesterday's exit polls. Obama's strengths rested in urban Philadelphia, home to 30 percent of the state's Democratic voters, including African-Americans, 90 percent of whom cast their ballots for the junior IL senator. Clinton swept the balance of the state, including Pittsburgh, largely on the backs of white voters who favored her by a 60-40 percent margin. Clinton beat Obama among weekly church-goers and gun owners, two groups implicated by the widely disseminated "bitter" comments emanating from Obama in an Apr. 6 speech. Obama struggled once more with Catholics, blue collar voters, and voters older than 60 (all critical components of the Democratic base), while dominating the 18-29 demographic once more.
Of greater concern to Democratic prospects this fall is the high percentage of Pennsylvania voters who said they would either vote for McCain or sit out the election in its entirety. If Clinton is the Democratic nominee, 11 percent said they would vote for the GOP standard-bearer and 6 percent would abstain. The numbers are higher if Obama is the nominee: 15 percent would opt for McCain and 10 percent would sit on their hands. I view these numbers with more than a small dose of skepticism, as I do expect the Democratic Party to unite and consolidate around their eventual nominee, whoever it may be. The negative tone that this contest has assumed could force many to the sidelines, however, imperiling what once looked like a slam dunk Democratic victory.
Moving forward, May 6 contests in North Carolina and Indiana loom large. Although Clinton has vowed to fight to the finish, the Hoosier State may indeed be her swan song should she lose to Obama in a state that borders his home state, but shares many of the demographic qualities of Ohio and Pennsylvania that play to Clinton's wheelhouse. Clinton is cash-strapped at a time when her opponent continues to swim in an unprecedented pool of greenbacks. Moreover, North Carolina looks like a blowout in Obama's favor, and he is well-positioned to win in Guam (May 3), Oregon (May 20), and Montana and South Dakota (both on Jun. 3). An Indiana win should enable Clinton to soldier on to victories in West Virginia (May 13), Kentucky (May 20), and Puerto Rico (Jun. 1).
Where will the race stand as of Jun. 4? Short of a Clinton withdrawal or a massive shift of superdelegates to one candidate or the other, neither candidate will have the delegates necessary to claim the nomination, but Obama will likely hold slim, but healthy leads in both elected delegates and the popular vote. Still unresolved are the contests in Florida and Michigan. Mind you, if the popular vote margins in these states are added to the existing lot, Clinton would emerge with a slight lead. Revotes in these states are highly unlikely, meaning some alternative form of delegate allocation may be necessary. I find it highly unlikely that the two campaigns will reach agreement on what they deem a fair compromise. Should Obama head into the fall campaign by excluding these state delegations, his chances of winning two more battleground states will be further undermined.
As I (and many others) have said repeatedly since Tsunami Tuesday (Feb. 5), the eventual Democratic nominee will rely upon unelected superdelegates to place him or her over the top. It appears highly unlikely that superdelegates will go against the grain and crown Clinton should she continue to trail among elected delegates and the popular vote. Nonetheless, her argument that Obama will struggle this fall against McCain was strengthened by yesterday's results, and she may be able to hold off the remaining uncommitted superdelegates from flocking en mass to Obama at this juncture. However, despite signs of buyer's remorse among Democratic voters, Obama's ascension to standard bearer of the party may be all but inevitable.